When Capcom first announced that they'd be bringing a collection of Mega Man games to modern consoles, everyone was a little bit light-headed at the prospect of the sheer number of titles that the package would contain. Given that the core series debuted with the original Mega Man on the NES in 1987 and saw its last release in 2010 with Mega Man 10 for Xbox Live Arcade and that it's seen a number of spinoffs and branching franchises released along the way, there was reason to be excited.
As it stands though, Mega Man Legacy Collection doesn't see the character getting the Rare Replay treatment. What's included are the six titles that were released for the NES, emulated via Digital Eclipse's multi-platform Eclipse Engine, a challenge mode that plays a like Nintendo's Remix titles, a gallery of concept art, a music player and a database of characters to flip through.
That doesn't seem like a whole lot. Sure, the first six Mega Man games were absolute classics. Despite their technical limitations – such as masses of slowdown and sprite flashing (both of which make an appearance here to the point that the games are all but identical to the originals) – they were unfailingly challenging and rewarding. At the start of each game, you select the boss that you want to take on first. If you beat him, you get access to his power to use against subsequent bosses. Face them in the wrong order and you'll find that the game becomes tougher to the point of being impossible to beat. Players of the originals will remember the frustrations fondly, for sure. Each game is playable with or without decorative borders in multiple screen modes, with each mode making things more palatable on modern TVs. You can even apply a few filters to simulate scan lines and ghosting effects that would have been present on some old CRT screens and the effects are nicely done. There's nothing here that will simulate a professional-grade upscaler but the developers have made a very decent fist of things all the same in this aspect.
The challenge mode is where most players will find their time wasting away. Here, a timer is set at the bottom of the screen and you have to play your way through short (and some not-so-short) sections of the original games to get to a black hole that transports you to the next. If you manage to even beat the maximum time limit – which will cause you trouble to start with - you'll be awarded a medal and thrown into the leaderboard mix. The gold medal times are massively challenging to beat in most cases, to the point of almost being a little bit too stiff of a challenge. One set saw us playing over and over again to try to best the 2-minute mark and when we finally did it, we were second on the worldwide leaderboard (admittedly, there aren't a great deal of scores posted as yet) and still were only awarded a silver medal for our efforts. There's addiction here, though. Addiction that's fed via the medium of the downloadable replay. If you're struggling with your times, you can simply find the fastest guy or gal on the list and watch exactly how they got their score, then go back to try to emulate it. This invariably leads to thoughts of "Hmm…I could do this faster than them if I just…" and then repeated attempts to string their moves together along with one or two of your own. With 50 challenges on board, you could well be here for some time.
One downside of the challenge mode, is that the old "pause trick" still works against bosses. In the original games, certain bosses were susceptible to unscrupulous players beating them down by repeatedly pausing the game as a projectile hit them. A coding error meant that when the game was paused, the enemy's invincibility timer would still count down, meaning that a single shot could hit them and then when you paused and unpaused, it would hit them again. Some very tough bosses are beatable in a single hit using this method and when challenges simply involve beating a boss down in the fastest time possible, even on the pre-launch leaderboards some insane times are being posted. Could something have been done to fix this? We think so. Should something have been done to fix this? Again, we think so.
But it's minor things like this that make us feel like not a great deal of thought has gone into the collection. Rare Replay may well have spoiled us when it comes to retro compilations, but we have to say Mega Man Legacy Collection just isn't even in the same league. When you think of the games in the franchise that have been overlooked, this all seems very lightweight. Nothing other than the basic NES titles are included, so there's no Mega Man 7, 8, Mega Man & Bass, or any of the Mega Man X series. Mega Man 9 and 10 (which were both released for Xbox 360 via Xbox Live Arcade) are missing when they probably could have been thrown in as a backwards compatible bonus for very little work. None of the portable games have seen a whimsical port, so there's no Mega Man Battle Network or Mega Man Zero. None of the non-standard spinoffs have been included as interesting extras either, so you don't get to give Mega Man Soccer or Mega Man Battle & Chase a spin.
This may seem like we're being ungrateful, but the reason for our issue is that back in 2004, Capcom released Mega Man Anniversary Collection for PlayStation 2, Gamecube and Xbox. That title – released 11 years ago – contained all of the six games that Legacy Collection does, but also threw in Mega Man 7 and 8 and two lesser-known titles Mega Man: The Power Battle and Mega Man 2: The Power Fighters. Skip forward to 2006 and the company released Mega Man X Collection for PlayStation 2 and Gamecube, containing Mega Man X through to Mega Man X6, with Mega Man Battle & Chase thrown in for good measure.
What we're saying is – fancy new emulation engine or not – this has been done before and not only that, but it's been presented in a more complete manner in the past. The challenge mode provided here does and will provide hours of playing time to fans of the series and there's no doubt in our minds that if you liked the NES titles, you'll be in clover with this collection. It just feels like it's a fair way away from what it should have been.
Mega Man Legacy Collection feels incomplete, even at the relatively low asking price. You get the first six titles that form the basis of the Mega Man Legacy (which is apt, given the compilation's name) but other than an entertaining challenge mode, there doesn't appear to be much in the way of love shown to the franchise here. This could have and should have contained way more than it actually does, even if the included titles are as enjoyable as they ever were. We imagine that if past performance is to be used as an indicator, a Mega Man X Collection and Mega Man Zero Collection will end up being sold separately way down the line and in a post-Rare Replay market, that sort of approach isn't going to really go down as well as it used to.